Tuesday, June 19, 2012
58 and not looking good for 60…
58 years old and not looking in the best of shape. If anything, they are looking quite thin and frail and there isn’t much support to help them on through. At first you may be thinking I’m talking about my dad, but for starters he’s not quite 58 and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in a thin or frail appearance.
What I am talking about though is an event 18 years senior than then one held in Coffs Harbour, and that is the eisteddfod of the city of Grafton. For an event that saw talent travelling from the north of Yamba to as far south as Coffs Harbour, the music component of the eisteddfod is now in a sorry state. In the space of two days, the piano, vocal, and instrumental (woodwind, brass, strings and percussion) eisteddfods will be over and done with. Piano will be held in two sessions on the Thursday morning and afternoon, instrumental on the Thursday evening, and then the vocals Friday morning.
For an event that would hold strong competition and rivalries back in the 90s, the Grafton Eisteddfod brought the communities of surrounding towns to one place to celebrate making music. Over the last five years the participation numbers have gradually dwindled down. Out of all of the musical sections of the eisteddfod we will only see one musician take part for an open-age championship. Very few musicians 16 years and over will take part, and the number of people taking part in younger sections are very few and far. The majority of sections will contain either one or two competitors.
So why the massive fall from grace? For a community that is sometimes referred to as being “hockey mad”, the musical side of things has been on the rise over the last few years. Yesterday (18/6), the Clarence Valley Con held an enormous workshop for four of the primary schools in the Clarence region. The primary schools music programs have grown considerably with students continuing on with private or further music studies in high schools. There certainly isn't a wane in musical interest, but to lose a community-based musical opportunity
For the Coffs Harbour Instrumental Eisteddfod, this was a problem being faced in previous years before a dramatic turnaround of events. While there were fantastic musicians that had emerged, there weren’t so many coming through at the time in the junior ranks. Numbers were thin, and there was little community support at the time. With a new organiser for this component of the eisteddfod, they immediately sought after ideas as to how not only to increase numbers but make the event more interesting. By no means was the organiser clueless, but in fact what they did was branch out to the musical community for support, suggestions and establish a basis of communication. When the lines of communication are open, things are bound to happen and not remain stagnant. The first couple of years were slow, but there was a gradual change in events as not only did numbers lift but sections could start being separated (a common problem when strings would be against wind instruments). Strings could break away from the combination of woodwind and brass instruments in different sections, and AMEB grade sections were established for students preparing for examinations (traditionally held a couple of months after the eisteddfod) to name a couple of changes. 2012 would be the first year a championship would separate into strings only, and wind instruments only. For where the Coffs Instrumental Eisteddfod is up to now, you can read my previous entry.
Some people from Grafton visited the Coffs Instrumental Eisteddfod this year and remarked at not only how well it was run, but thoroughly enjoyed the performances from these musicians located on the mid-north coast. One audience member felt guilty having paid only four dollars to be treated to high standard performances by these young musicians. Already there have been expressions of interest from some Grafton students to travel down for the Coffs Eisteddfod next year after hearing about this festival of music. And in its first year, the Lower Clarence Eisteddfod is looking at establishing a place within the Grafton community.
Will there still be a place for the Grafton Eisteddfod? The chips may be down, but can the diamond be produced under this pressure?